Select Stewart Miscellany

Here are some Stewart stories and accounts over the years:

Stewart Origins in Scotland

In the early 12th century, King David I of Scotland rewarded one of his Norman knights, Sir Walter Fitz-Alan, by granting him the office of High Steward of Scotland.  Sir Walter thereby became the second most powerful man in Scotland.  This office of High Steward became hereditary, being passed on eventually for six generations through the line of eldest sons.  

By the 13th century, with the fourth generation of High Stewards, the title had evolved into a family surname.  In Gaelic the hard "d" sound was pronounced more like the English "t" and thus the name became Stiubhaird in Gaelic (pronounced "stchyoo-wayrst") or Stewart in English. 

In the late 13th century Walter Stewart, the 6th High Steward of Scotland, fought alongside Robert the Bruce in the Scottish Wars of Independence and was rewarded for his loyalty by the hand of Robert’s daughter Marjorie. 

Walter and Marjorie had a son named Robert.  Robert Stewart nearly didn't make it into this world.  His mother Princess Marjorie was thrown from her horse while she was pregnant.  She died from her injuries and Robert was born by an emergency Caesarean section.  When Robert the Bruce's son David II died without any male heir, then this Robert Stewart was the next in line for the throne

Baldorran and Balquhidder Stewarts

Murdoch Stewart and two of his sons were executed for treason by King James I in 1425.  The youngest of the sons, James Mhor or James the Fat, then led a short-lived rebellion, taking the town of Dumbarton before fleeing to Ireland.  A second attempt at rebellion in 1429 saw a fleet sail to Ireland to collect James "to convey him home that he might be king," but he died before the attempt could be made. 

However, his illegitimate son James Beag Stewart somehow managed to restore himself to royal favor and he was granted the lands of Baldorran in Stirlingshire.  It was Sir William Stewart of the next generation who was the one most responsible for restoring this family to prosperity.  He was appointed Royal Baillie of the Crown lands of Balquhidder in Perthshire sometime around 1485 and based himself there (the family sold their Baldorran estates in 1524).  The tradition of illegitimacy seems to have continued in the family in the 16th century.

Stewarts in the 1891 Scottish Census

Stewarts (000's)

In terms of city concentration of the Stewart name, Glasgow led and was followed by Dundee (in Angus), Edinburgh, and Aberdeen.  The Stewart name in Perthshire was fairly widely spread.

Charles Stewart, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry

Charles Stewart succeeded his half-brother, Lord Castlereagh, as the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry in 1822.  He married twice.   His second wife, whom he married in 1819, was Lady Francis Vane.  She brought with her a vast fortune and he took by royal license the name of Vane. 

The family used their new-found wealth to redecorate their main country seat in Ireland, Mount Stewart.  They also bought Holderness House on London's Park Lane, which they renamed Londonderry House.  

Controversially the Londonderrys, while spending £150,000 on the Mont Stewart refurbishment only gave £30 to family relief in Ireland in the 1840’s, despite the fact that the Londonderry estates were directly affected by starvation.  This disparity probably illustrates the inhumanity that existed within Ireland at that time.

James Stewart in Delaware

After the Jacobite defeat at Culloden, James Stewart fled to America.  

In 1760 he bought a tract of 94 acres in the Brandywine hundred of New Castle county, Delaware.  This land was located adjacent to his brother Samuel’s property along the Brandywine river and about a mile south of the Pennsylvania border.  He lived there for the remainder of his life as a farmer until his death in 1788.  He is buried in an unmarked grave next to his brother Samuel who had died there fifteen years earlier.  

His son James fought at the battle of Brandywine.  A descendant wrote:

"My grandfather, James Stewart, although just a lad of 16 years of age, joined the American forces at the Battle of Brandywine, commanded by LaFayette, in 1777 and carried a musket in the engagement." 

In 1791 James sold his large brick house in the hamlet of Glasgow.  This house still survives and is known as the James Stewart House.  The oldest section dates to the last half of the 18th century, with additions made in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Hellfire Jack Stewart

The “Hellfire Jack” of Prince Edward Island politics, John Stewart gave clear evidence of his turbulent disposition early on.  During his voyage to the Island as a teen-age immigrant in 1775, he had been involved in a fight on board ship.

Then in 1784 he had accosted Judge Thomas Wright on his way to the court-house, castigating him on a case in which he, Stewart, was a party.   He renewed the abuse on the judge’s way home and physically attacked those who tried to intervene.   He avoided prison only on the intervention of his younger brother Charles who successfully appealed to the injured parties’ sense of chivalry by saying that the assailant’s wife was “unwell and much alarmed.”  

In 1789 Stewart had become the neighbor of another turbulent Islander, John MacDonald of Glenaladale. Their feud was to go on for years.   On one occasion in 1797 Stewart insulted Glenaladale in the streets of Charlottetown and Glenaladale attacked his tormentor with a small dirk.  Stewart was about to bring out his “prodigious long cut-and-thrust sword.”   As it was, the combatants were parted before any injury was done. 

The surprising thing was that John Stewart was generally successful in the rough-and-tumble of Prince Edward Island politics over a relatively long period of time, from 1784 to 1830.  He died in 1834, reportedly due to a surfeit of fat meat.

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